How many times have parents been accused of allowing their youngest child to get away with absolutely everything? Often older siblings compare the treatment they receive to that of the last born with exaggerated testimony, but clearly there is some credibility to their claims. The youngest sibling can benefit from parents who are more relaxed and willing to bend the rules for peace of mind. Frequently saying “Yes” or skipping the lecture or doing the delegated chore yourself becomes far easier than going yet another round in a parent/child disagreement. Obviously, parenting has an effect on siblings, shaping the persons they become. So if the parent displays the classic behavior described, does it mean that the youngest child now becomes the textbook example of the famous birth order premise?
Alfred Adler an Austrian medical doctor, psychologist and early associate of Sigmund Freud is credited as one of the first to theorize on the effects birth order has on siblings personalities. Of course, it has to be acknowledged that all psychologists do not completely agree with this theory and there are many individual exceptions and variables that must be taken into consideration. However, it is an interesting subject to explore using real life personalities (siblings, relatives, friends and children) as your subjects.
Since the youngest is never “dethroned” as the baby, they are put in the position of dictator of the household. Parents and older siblings are always doing for the youngest, first out of necessity, then out of habit. Because of this, the youngest child expects others to make decisions and take responsibility for them. Even as adults, older siblings can still feel responsible for their "baby" brother or sister.
Frequently, last borns are referred to as the charmer as well as the manipulator. Because of their status as the perpetual “baby” of the family, they are usually doted on and not only expect attention, but they also become skilled at getting the attention. It is not uncommon to hear the older siblings express the idea that the youngest has the parents wrapped around their finger. This gives weight to the idea that the youngest is always the most spoiled. Interestingly enough, the youngest (and skilled manipulator) is often the better educated because parent’s economic situation of the family generally improves in later years.
However, in a remarkable contrast, the youngest can also feel as if they are not getting the right kind of attention. When they achieve the normal childhood milestones, parents have a tendency to overlook their significance. First time activities for the last born are simply repeats for the parents and enthusiasm can wane. The youngest may experience a sense of loneliness and unfairness because they believe they are being easily dismissed.
Other character traits:
• Feels as if they are weaker and therefore not taken seriously
• More of a risk taker because of the leniency in discipline
• Outgoing, social and many times a “joker”
• Persistent and used to getting their way
• Struggles for independence away from family
Whether we agree or disagree, believe or dismiss the birth order theory, it’s important for your parenting skills to evolve based on the child. Here are some parenting tips for the last born:
• Set limits and hold the child accountable
• Give child responsibility (their share of chores)
• Give recognition for important accomplishments
• Spend quality time with your youngest. Make time to talk to them and give them attention as an individual, not just as the “baby”.
Famous last borns: Johnny Depp, Jim Carrey, Sidney Poitier, Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Janet Jackson